Alex Fulcher
October 27, 2023

The Truth Behind Self Storage's Spooky Stigma

We expose the secrets behind the eerie reputation of self storage, find out the truth and reveal how easyStorage is changing the game.

Let’s be honest, self storage has gotten a bad reputation from popular media for as long as it has been a part of our culture. The first modern self storage businesses were opened in America in the 1960s and the UK in 1979 to help provide room for our growing population and their growing belongings. And since then storage units in television, books or films storage are always seen as or part of something that is spooky, creepy or scary. 

Now it is an industry with an annual turnover of roughly £1 billion in the UK with roughly 55.5 million sq ft in use. Around 10% of people in the UK are using storage or considering it in the next year. So with our favourite orange-themed holiday Halloween fast approaching we thought it was a great time to find out exactly why and how this odd image was formed, accepted and now how it has changed.

Storage’s Bad Image in TV and Film

TV and film have a lot to answer for when it comes to storage unit representation. The units are often a hiding place for clues, treasures or items that are not necessarily legal.

The reality show Storage Wars sheds light on the abandoned storage containers, where the public can bid on units without knowing exactly what is in there and more importantly what it is worth. As humans, we often jump to the worst conclusion when only being provided with some information so a mystery metal container full of someone else's belongings left behind allows the imagination to run wild. 

Some of the worst, weird and scary items found in the show range from illegal roadkill, animal bones, used body piercing kit, human skeleton (used for teaching, thank goodness!) and even, voodoo items including human hair!

Storage unit metal container containing a skeleton and other small boxes

In TV shows and movies, self storage units are often settings for uncovering clues, contraband, or long-forgotten treasures. The storage wars reality show phenomenon follows bidders competing to purchase and profit off abandoned units full of mystery contents. These unknown commodities get our minds racing about all the skeletons that could be hiding in storage closets across the country.

What Horror is in Self Storage?

Crime shows like CSI and Breaking Bad have frequently used self storage units to conceal incriminating evidence. An episode of CSI showed a corpse hidden away in a chest freezer in a storage locker. Even the animated film Monsters Inc. featured monsters using closet doors to enter children's bedrooms, resembling storage unit doors. Using self storage lockers as plot devices for stashing clues, secrets, and contraband propagates the frightening stereotypes about what they contain.

Stereotyping Storage for the Plot 

In horror films like Storage, the units themselves become danger zones, hiding supernatural evil. While these are fictional portrayals, they inevitably shape public perception. Showing abandonment and decay feeds visions of forgotten relics, while positioning them as crime repositories cements the creepy reputation. Using the mystery as a storytelling tool sustains the scary stigma.

Real-Life Oddities Found in Storage Units

Stranger than fiction, real-life finds also bolster the creepy myths. Storage locker auctions have uncovered Picasso paintings, gold Krugerrands, 19th century vampire hunting kits, mummified cats, and even human remains. One locker in California was found containing numerous prosthetic limbs!

Strange Treasures Hidden Away

When customers stop paying on storage units, the facilities sometimes hold blind auctions to sell off the abandoned contents. This has resulted in surprising and bizarre discoveries like artworks worth millions, caches of precious metals, medieval weapons, and antiquities. News headlines touting these oddities spark imaginations about what else could be stowed away undiscovered in forgotten lockers nationwide. But they also feed impressions of self storage as houses of treasure, secrets and intrigue.

A man intrigued holding a metal box in a storage unit auction

Abandoned and Forgotten Possessions

Less sensational finds tell sad tales of unclaimed family mementos, like old home movies, photo albums, and cherished childhood toys. When relatives don't claim contents, these orphaned possessions are disposed of or auctioned off anonymously. The disposal of treasured artifacts and personal memories promotes images of self storage as warehouses of loss and decay. Uncovering old wedding dresses, diplomas, and love letters stimulates imaginations, but also underscores the creepy reputation.

The Mystery of What's Behind Closed Doors

Unlike a house, there are no windows providing glimpses inside a self storage unit. The anonymity and secrecy around what each garage-style door safeguards elicits curiosity. What's hidden behind the cold metal curtain? Family heirlooms? Christmas decorations? Alien artifacts? Our minds run wild envisioning what treasures or terrors could be just a few feet away.

Active Imaginations Run Wild 

Not knowing what's being stored adjacent to your own locker can be tantalizing. Self storage takes advantage of our natural inclination towards curiosity about the unknown. Unlike a bank vault, the contents are physically close yet obscured. Thoughts turn to contraband, valuables, relics or bizarre hobbies. This blank canvas for speculation influences impressions of secrecy and strangeness.

Personal Stories of Discovery and Curiosity

Renters describe the excitement exploring long-locked contents purchased at auctions, uncovering someone else's precious memories and possessions. But also discomfort realising a stranger's belongings resided anonymously alongside their own for months or years. Self storage intrinsically conceals lives just beyond the doors. This contradiction of physical closeness yet secrecy fuels imagination and unease about what happens behind closed doors.

The Eerie Locations and Layouts

Even the facilities themselves seem engineered to be unsettling. Labyrinth-like corridors with rows upon rows of identical doors have an eerie vibe. The remote, rundown warehouses slapped with paint atop crumbling bricks you see in movies reinforce the haunted house aesthetic. 

Maze-Like Hallways and Rows

The generic layouts of traditional self storage resemble institutional corridors - stark, uniform, and lifeless. Navigating the maze of long hallways induces unease. Identical stacked doors line the passages like ominous portals concealing mysteries. Psychologically these environments feel unnatural compared to our evolved habitat. Endless identical options disturb our brains.

Dark metal storage unit corridor

Remoteness and Lack of Windows

Facilities tucked away on the industrial outskirts of town reinforce the sense of otherness. Lack of windows into the depths of warehouses plays on fears of the dark and unknown. Their utilitarian, function-only designs project coldness versus homes brimming with life. Self storage's purpose is intrinsically storing the past and things left behind. So facilities mirror this aura of seeming abandoned and forgotten.

How easyStorage Has Changed Self Storage from Scary to Simple

While self storage retains its creepy cultural reputation, new facilities aim to alter perceptions by prioritising cleanliness, security and customer service. Industry leader easyStorage has rebranded sterile storage as uplifting and convenient. 

State-of-the-Art Security and Surveillance

easyStorage locations feature remote, well-lit facilities monitored 24/7 by security cameras. Customers book free access to their units and are accompanied to their unit by friendly easyStorage staff who are happy to help. Surveillance technology and personnel discourage crime and bolster safety.

Climate Control and Bright Lighting

Units are ambient temperatures to preserve contents from heat, cold and moisture damage. Bright overhead LEDs replace gloomy single bulbs, creating an inviting environment. No more venturing into dark, dingy warehouses worrying about dust and critters destroying possessions. easyStorage provides clean and cared for spaces.

An Ethos of Service and Satisfaction 

Most importantly, easyStorage staff prioritise cheap storage, compassion and satisfaction, they go above and beyond for each customer (you can read all about one of our customers who were saved by the Oxford team here).

easyStorage team loading a washing machine into an easyStorage van and open storage unit

The local storage experts get to know customers personally and treat them like neighbours, not anonymous tenants. If issues arise, they act promptly with understanding, unlike the foreboding landlords of the past. Happy renters become their best marketers. Word-of-mouth spreads positivity instead of urban legends.

While self storage may never fully shake its spooky reputation, companies like easyStorage are actively working to change the image through upgraded amenities and transparency. Safe, clean facilities with temperature control and security cameras are becoming the norm. And renters are sharing their positive experiences instead of horror stories. The mysteries live on in movies and shows, but for real-life storage, the fear factor is finally fading away.

Alex Fulcher

Alex joined the easyStorage family after landing her dream role as the social media and content manager in September 2021. She has a creative and entrepreneurial spirit, finding her way through various industries: from theatre to charity work. From helping her fathers' family business, she has always known that amazing people are the foundations for any successful business - proven by the likes of easyStorage. She enjoys walking her handsome dog Leo, reading and going to the theatre. This is of course, when she is not travelling the world jumping out of planes or scuba diving with Turtles, which she says are bigger than any of our easyStorage boxes!

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