These things are three-times cursed

That’s what Joseph Sisto said to his father with respect to the 3,500 objects in the elder Sisto’s Illinois home according to Rosalind Bentley in a piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday. 

These things are three-times cursed, Sisto, of Duluth, would tell his father, John. Cursed once because they were stolen, cursed twice because they were smuggled, and cursed thrice because concealing the cache in their home had robbed the family of its peace of mind.

And there are more details on how the objects came from Italy to the United States.  I think one curious thing to pick up on here, are all the crates of antiquities and other objects which were shipped from Italy.  Customs agents in both the United States and Italy were unable to detect these objects which were certainly illegally exported, and some were perhaps stolen.  I’m left wondering how many crates of objects are still being shipped which are undetected.  And I don’t think its a case of authorities not taking this problem seriously, or a lack of legal restrictions; rather I think there are limits to what we can reasonably expect of law enforcement and customs agents. 

Collectibles and old texts fascinated the elder Sisto. By the time Joseph was an adolescent, his father was taking him on regular trips to Italy to visit family. The trips were often more drudgery for Joseph than pleasure. Italian summers were interminably hot, and Joseph and his dad would spend hours looking for rare books and manuscripts in musty old castles and homes in the country. Often, his father would either leave with purchased packages or he’d wind up buying the entire contents of the place.

Months after the Italian visits, crates would arrive at the brick bungalow in Berwyn. Scores of crates, almost never just one or two. That’s when the real work began. Joseph, his younger brother and his father would spend every minute of their spare time unloading dirty, messy crates. Instead of playing softball outside with friends or just hanging out, Joseph and his brother had to stay inside and catalogue the contents. But instead of selling the items on the black market (which the FBI said had been part of an original plan), John Sisto kept almost everything.

He converted the second floor of the bungalow into a veritable archive. He had dozens of bookshelves installed. He filled the attic. Then he learned how to read and translate Latin to better appreciate what was in his trove. He quietly and cautiously sought out curators to learn how to properly preserve ancient documents, always taking his absolute worst and most insignificant piece for the consultation so as not to arouse suspicion, Sisto said.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *