A Stolen Antique Vase

A Stolen Antique Vase

Write a detective story about a stolen, antique vase.

This is an essay question in an actual exam a few years ago. I enjoyed writing this but if I have a choice, I would definitely not write a detective story in an exam. My imagination is too much for an exam 🤯


“Sir, I didn’t see anyone coming in here last night, and there were no alarms either, no sounds, no sirens, nothing.” I observed the glass showcase with my magnifier. It looked normal, neat and tidy — except nothing was in it as if nothing were ever there.

The Museum of Savoca is a landmark of the small village in Italy. There were lots of cultural artefacts here, including vases, pots, urns, sculptures, etc. The morning sun was shining through the tall French windows, filling the museum with warmth. I looked around, holding the printout of the picture of the vase. It was a ceramic vase yellowed with age, decorated with hardly-recognizable Egyptian drawings on it, faded patterns, and notches all over its surface.

The curator of the museum was a bald, old man.  While holding up my hand in his trembling palms, tears filled his eyes. He told me that the vase had been here for the last three or four decades and that no one had ever moved it out from its glass case. There was no evidence left where the theft appened. The vase seemed to have disappeared out of thin air.

Since a lot of security guards guarded the museum, the person who had stolen the vase must be very familiar with the structure of the museum and found a way to pass all the guards and the alarm system with the antique vase. The security guards handed me a list of people who had visited the museum in the past two days. I went through the list carefully. These visitors were all foreigners who had just come to the country for at most three days. There were no chances for these museum visitors to examine the security system of the museum within such a short time and without anyone noticing.

Technicians checked the security system for me. Everything was operating as usual. One tried to hammer on the armoured glass, the siren immediately started.

There was also a possibility that the person who stole the vase was one of the guards. However, even if it were the guards who had taken the vase, there would be an alarm. No one other than the curator of the museum himself, who had added a facial recognition system to the glass showcase and had set his own face as the only face that the system recognized.

And then I thought for a while, brainstorming all the possibilities, and eventually, I wondered: are there other antiques that were stolen from this museum before? As I performed the search, I saw the picture of the antique vase on my screen immediately. On the webpage, it said: “Precious antique vase from ancient Egypt disappeared from the Museum of Savoca” I stared at the line of text astonished.

I read the whole article carefully. Everything was exactly what the museum had experienced in the past few days, the detective came, checking through the list of visitors until the case ended without an answer. A few days later, the detective was lost in desperation and frustration and committed suicide! I sat up in my chair, trembling. When I tried to find out when all of these were “predicted” I found out that the news article was published 50 years ago. The case it described was not the one that we were going through, but was remarkably similar.

Quickly scrolling through other news articles about the same case 50 years ago, I no longer doubted the credibility of the news. I was more and more astounded as I saw the perfect conformity between the two cases — except that they were 50 years apart. As I was researching, I also found out that the antique vase was found one year after its disappearance, right in its showcase, returned secretly without anyone knowing how, just like how it had disappeared. It was the same as the day before it disappeared a year ago; it had the same number of notches as before, not one more, not one less. There were no fingerprints nor scratches on it. The paintings on it had the same yellowish colour. The professionals, after measuring, realized that the vase was facing precisely the same direction as when it disappeared.

Just as I was exploring in the images on the webpage, one security guard who was also researching, patted me on my back: “Sir, come, I’ve got something to show you.” He showed me a scan of a newspaper archive he found on the website of the local library. The title of the article says: “Ancient Egyptian vase stolen from the Museum of Savoca.”. The article was written in the early 1900s, exactly 100 years ago. “… and the most surprising thing was that the vase reappeared…” Before he finished his sentence, all of a sudden, as if a flash in my mind, I realized something. Piecing everything that I had found out through researching together – the unchanged position, the two news 50 years apart, I felt like I had uncovered a mystery: it turned completely transparent every 50 years and reappeared after one year! I turned towards the glass showcase. The vase could still be inside the showcase, even though people were unable to see it.

I asked the curator to open the glass showcase for me with his facial recognition, there was nothing in there, but I put my finger to the place where the vase was supposed to be. As I did so, I felt a freezing cloud of gas going into my veins, spreading through my whole body. Out of my instinct, I attempted to pull my finger back, but my body was as if frozen. I screamed, but no sound was coming out from my throat. The gas flowing through my veins was in control of my body, pushing warmth as well as my consciousness out of my body, into the glass case. My consciousness, or perhaps my soul, could vaguely see a figure of a vase inside the glass case, glowing light-blue. I was pushed into the vase, into a space filled with darkness. I could talk now. I shouted for help, but no one standing outside the showcase could hear me.

“Who pushed me?” I cried, “Who are you?” A deep voice started laughing; there was a sense of brutality to it.

“You are number 421, and I am 420. I was pushed into here, um, about 50 years ago, by 419, the 419th spirit of the vase.”

“He took my body, 419 left my soul here and took my body. He took the body of the famous detective and killed it, pretending his death was a suicide. I don’t deserve what I went through — what did I do wrong? Why should I suffer? Now I want you to experience everything I experienced 5 decades ago! Sleep now, sleep for one year, and when you wake up, the vase will be seen by humans again. Look for 422 and you will be a free man.”

There were a few sneers and he went away, leaving my soul in the darkness. I could feel that my body outside the glass showcase shook a little bit, then I was completely disconnected from it. I felt a sense of dizziness, and slowly, my eyelids closed, I sank into the darkness.

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