CHESTER, Pa. (WTFM) --- It was a hot, summer afternoon in mid-August, 1962, when a twelve-year-old Robert Tiller and his younger brother, Pete, decided they would bury a jar of pennies in their backyard.
Two years later, they decided to dig it back up, but there was a problem: neither Robert nor Pete could remember exactly where they had buried it. After a week of shoveling up various spots in the yard, the two finally admitted defeat, and for the last 49 years, the location of the buried "treasure" has remained a mystery.
Last Sunday, while patching a hole in the roof of his house, Robert Tiller was apparently struck with a case of "instant recall."
His wife, Jean, explains how it all happened:
"He was up on his ladder laying melted tar down for some new shingles, when our neighbor's boy, Jimmy, came out of nowhere and grabbed hold of the ladder and pushed as hard as he could. Well, Robert was really up there - about 20 feet, I'd say. So when the ladder went over, Robert ended up all the way over on the sidewalk. I was at the mailbox...so I got a pretty good look at the whole thing, and I'm pretty sure Robert ended up landing head-first."
As Misses Tiller moved toward her husband to help him up and to ask if he wanted to take a lunch break, she could hear him mumbling various words and phrases, such as, "the mother-load," "Lincoln's treasure," and "it's rainin' pennies, Pete!"
Misses Tiller wondered what it meant, of course, but could not make heads nor tails of it at the time.
However, two days later, when Pete Tiller, now aged 57, had come to visit his older brother's bedside at the critical care unit of Chester Memorial Hospital, Robert Tiller's revelation was finally deciphered. Although Robert had been barely coherent at the time - a feeding tube was in place, and his head wrapped almost entirely in layers of gauze in order to hold his broken cranium together - his brother Pete, after listening to endless rants about "pennies" for nearly two hours, suddenly realized that a miracle was taking place.
"Oh my God," Pete Tiller remembers saying. "Hand me that pad and pen over there, Jean. Quick!"
Pete took the pad and held it in front of his brother's broken face. He put the pen in his brother's one working hand.
What happened next is something no one, not even trained memory experts, can begin to explain.
With only one working arm and one eye that could barely see through a small slit in the gauze covering his head, Robert Tiller drew a map - a detailed, aerial map of the backyard of his childhood home. There was a square where the doghouse had been, a circle for the old oak that once rested in the northwest corner, and a rectangle where the woodpile had sat.
And although everything on the map was labeled "pennies" (Robert had also drawn a pair of breasts where the street would have been), there was one thing that caught Pete's eye: an "X."
"Holy Jesus!" Pete had yelled in excitement. "Holy Christ! The jar of pennies!"
Pete remembers Robert making frantic gargling sounds at this, drooling uncontrollably, and kicking at the hospital bed with one foot -- all clear signs of affirmation.
"You amazing bastard!" Pete yelled. "Fifty years gone by and you remember right where it is!"
"Scrablet grog merkelberg!" had been Robert's muffled, but clearly joyous, reply.
As stunned as everyone in the room was, no one could restrain themselves from vigorously shaking Robert Tiller with congratulations at the miracle he'd just displayed.
An hour later, Pete and Jean, accompanied by Robert's understandably amazed medical team, were in the backyard of the old Tiller house. After surveying once more the aerial map Robert Tiller had drawn, some were confused by the "pennies" labels and the pair of breasts in the street, but Pete was able to bring everyone's focus back to the "X."
"It's here," Pete said. His demeanor, he recalls, had been cool and determined. "Start digging."
After no more than five minutes of vigorous shoveling by all in attendance, a hole approximately four and a half feet deep had revealed... a jar of pennies.
"My God," nurse Cynthia Johnson, 26, had been heard to say. "It's a miracle."
As Pete Tiller had carefully lifted the jar from the earth, he noted, "Dang... I remember this jar being bigger. And there was a lot more pennies..."
After counting the pennies at the scene of the miracle, the grand total amounted to seven dollars and 37 cents.
"Not a lot," Robert's wife, Jean, concluded. "But since Robert's health insurance isn't covering everything, every bit counts."
Although the monetary value of the pennies is admittedly small, Tiller's doctors say that the real value of the whole experience has been the childish wonder everyone involved with Mr. Tiller have felt.
"The mysteries of the brain are seemingly beyond comprehension," said Tiller's neurosurgeon, Dr. Franz Von Krantz, "Apparently some of its greatest secrets only reveal themselves through contact with solid concrete."
As for the Tiller's neighbor's boy, Jimmy, who was the catalyst of Robert's miracle-of-memory, his parents said that he could not be reached for comment, as he was currently under the care of an exorcist. We at WTFM would like to believe, however, that if Robert Tiller were alive today, he would want little Jimmy to know the miraculous outcome of his actions that fateful day.
Finally, it must be mentioned that Robert Tiller's final words may themselves hold a mystery waiting to be solved by some long-lost acquaintance or relative. Linguists are currently in debate about the exactitude of their findings; however, they have narrowed it down to three possibilities:
"Peas let me dice"
"Peace et me dive."
or, "Please set me dine."
If you knew Robert Tiller - no matter how long ago! - and have any information that could help solve his last mystery, WTFM would love to hear from you!