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A Bizarre 1987 Message in a Bottle Mystery Emerges From California Pond

Well, this is a weird one! A 1987 message in a bottle mystery from a small lake in California.

Enviro-crusader and “litter picker” Paul Southworth (I am a fan!) was recently out cleaning trash from Arastradero Lake in California–it’s nestled in the San Francisco Bay area. Woo hoo!

1987 Message in a Bottle Mystery - Paul Southworth Picking Litter.jpg

Paul with his trusty litter grabber and bags of junk from litterpicking the O&W Rail Trail in Kerhonkson, NY.

“Arastradero Lake is a pond in the Enid Pearson Arastradero Preserve in Palo Alto, California,” Paul told me. “Fishing is allowed at the lake and there is an accumulation of fishing trash floating in the water (tackle, plastic and glass bottles, and other food packaging trash). I have been visiting the pond for the last few months to remove trash using a 12 foot reacher.” 

Plenty of trash to pick up, it sounds like. 

Here’s the lake, tucked away near Palo Alto:

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Photo of Arastradero Lake Jitze Coupe

Arastradero Lake. Photo: Jitze Couperus.

Photo Arastradero Lake from Wandering With Purpose

Another view of Arastradero Lake. Photo Courtesy: WanderingWithPurpose.com

“One day I found a wine bottle floating in an area where debris tends to collect and I dragged it to shore,” Paul told me. When he got ahold of the bottle, he realized it was no normal piece of trash! “It contained a rolled-up sheet of paper,” he said, “faded from sun exposure and soaked with lake water.”

Paul Southworth Litter Pick MIB copy

Paul Southworth’s Litter Picking Finds. One of these bottles contains a note. Can you tell which? Photo: Paul Southworth

1987 Message in a Bottle Mystery - Paul Southworth's Message in a Bottle Find

The unopened message in a bottle found by Paul Southworth. Photo: Paul Southworth

Distress Message in a Bottle – Is it real? A joke?

When he took out the paper, he found it was covered in writing on both sides–English on one side, German on the other. The message in a bottle mystery thickens!

1987 Message in a Bottle Mystery - Side one of the message in a bottle found by Paul Southworth

The hand writing is different on each side, but the message appears to be about the same.

1987 Message in a Bottle Mystery - Side two of the message in a bottle found by Paul Southworth

It’s pretty hard to read, right? Here’s what Paul was able to read on the English side:



Please, help us: we are in this place for a stupid disguise that has happened one year ago. We are two guys from Italy and Germany, and we are now on a island in France, near Breton coast. Our parents know where is this place, so if you’d just write to one of them (better to advise both of them) we could be saved in no time; don’t worry about the date because we will probably stay here until somebody will receive this message: it is the only sheet of paper and the only bottle that we have and this island is feared from the fishermen and the people around here because of old legends. The nature here provides us water and fruits but obviously we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives here. We tried to sail away with a wooden boat that we built, but currents are too strong around here. If you don’t want to help us please just put the message again in the bottle so that somebody else could read it. We hope you will understand our English and that you’ll do

(Remainder of this page is very faded. There is a postscript, signatures, and dates.)

On the reverse is a similar message in German which is difficult to make out due to the handwriting and the fact that my German is not that good. It concludes with the legible address:

Daniele Rodolfi

Via Bodrio 21

43100 Porporano, Parma


Stefan’s address is also there but not legible.

An Unsolvable Message in a Bottle Mystery?

So there you go. That’s what we have. A message in a bottle mystery, to be sure. The note claims to have been thrown from an island off France, but was found in a landlocked lake in California, written in English and German, asking for the finder to contact a parent in Italy. Any questions? 🙂


Is this message a joke?

“If it’s a joke,” Paul told me, “I think it’s a pretty good joke, well executed and made more interesting by the long time it spent in the water. I would love to hear from Stefan or Daniele even if the note was a prank.”

Paul has tried to track down the Daniele whose address is listed, but so far has received no response. Maybe if enough of us spread the word about this bottled note, Daniele and or Stefan will see it and we’ll learn the story behind their bizarre 1987 message in a bottle mystery!

***If you liked this story, click here to visit (and “like”) my Facebook for more message in a bottle stories! You can even help solve them!

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