Ellsworth Police Department Detective Dotty Small holds a book that was found at the local Goodwill store last week. When opened, it was found that the book was not really a book but instead a storage container designed to look like a book — and the small gun seen here was found inside it. PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

Hidden gun found in book at Goodwill store

ELLSWORTH — In the opening lines of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the main character wonders to herself, “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?”

As the staff at the Ellsworth Goodwill store found out this week, one use for such a book is for storing a gun.

On Friday, an employee at the store called police to report that a donation of books had been received and that one of the books “didn’t feel right.”

Upon inspection, the book was found to be hollow and to contain a gun inside.

The gun is a .31-caliber, black powder pistol that was apparently made by Italian gun manufacturer Armi San Marco, which reportedly made replica period firearms in the second half of the 20th century.

Though there was paperwork with the gun inside the book, there was no information that could be used to identify a possible owner. Goodwill staff said the book “came from their central warehouse,” rather than a local donation, meaning identifying “who turned in the book would be impossible.”

Police ran the gun’s serial number through a national crime information database but did not find any matches for the gun. It is now stored in the evidence locker at the Police Department.

The “book” that the gun is stored in, as it turns out, is not really a book at all. It looks like a book from the outside, and even has the title of a real book on its spine: “Den of Lions,” by Associated Press journalist Terry Anderson.

The book is about Anderson’s experiences being held hostage by Hezbollah in Lebanon from 1985 to 1991.

Rather than tell Anderson’s story, however, this “book” was specifically designed for storage. According to a sticker on the inside cover, it was fashioned by Knox’s Fort Box in Jonesboro, Ark.

It has no pages, and instead simply has a hollow rectangle in its center where the gun and paperwork are stored. When closed, it stays shut with a magnetic latch.

While other items, such as marijuana, have occasionally turned up inside items that have been donated to the local Goodwill, Detective Dotty Small said this is the first time she knows of that a firearm has shown up there.

Though this is a first for Ellsworth, the incident is not without precedent. In 2012, an employee at a public library in Valparaiso, Ind., discovered the exact same type of gun in a donated copy of a novel called “Outerbridge Reach” by author Robert Stone.

“Someone just opened it up and said, ‘Oh my,’” Assistant Library Director Phyllis Nelson told The Times of Northwest Indiana.

A photo of that gun in its storage place looks almost exactly the same as the gun found in Ellsworth, and a sticker on the inside of the book cover seems to show that it also was made by Knox’s Fort Box.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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