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"We are absolutely fed up with Christmas" complained staff at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office in December 1927.
Employees at what was one of the world's busiest sorting offices were faced with all kinds of weird — and not-so-wonderful — lost packages to deal with in the run up to the festive season. These ranged from dozens of turkeys, geese, rabbits, ducks and the like (auctioned off, rather than being destroyed as they would be now), to gifts that'd gone astray including teddies, gramophone records, babies' rattles, boxing gloves and handkerchiefs (a present, frankly, better left astray).
There were more mysterious deliveries, such as an unclaimed bridal cake, and a revolver with cartridges. Things could get positively messy, too: one parcel sent from Germany contained tar — which oozed everywhere, causing "considerable damage" — while another package exploded with a mystery red powder, which took weeks for one poor sorter to clean off himself. While the occasional plucked turkey was simple enough to deal with, live animals caused havoc: "Live snakes are a bit dormant as a rule but they generally wake up all right when the parcel is opened," said one official. From another package, a kaleidoscope of rainbow-winged butterflies escaped, prompting a frantic hunt through the sorting office. In fact, what with all the "jumping frogs", "buzzing bees" and Italian 'love birds', at times the place must've looked less like a sorting office, more of a menagerie.
The saddest discovery made by the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, however, came in August 1920, when a dead baby was found inside a parcel.
We discovered this story on the wonderful British Newspaper Archive