When Prince died in 2016, he left behind a treasure trove of never-before-seen material – thousands of songs of varying degrees of completion were hidden in a locked safe in his Paisley Park estate.
There was only one problem: no one knew the safe combination, not even Prince when he was alive. He allegedly forgot the code several years before his death and left the safe locked.
With no way in, expert help was needed to open the safe after his death in 2016, which is where Dave McOmie, a professional Oregon-based cracker, came into the picture. He already knew the exact model of Prince’s vault – an American Century Mosler – when Prince’s estate contacted him. “I keep track of these things – just my job, really,” McOmie noted in an episode of This American life, saying he had seen a photo of the safe online. At six and a half feet tall, several feet wide, and 6,000 pounds, it’s not easy to crack. “No burglar has ever defeated an American Century Mosler, not once, ever.”
McOmie turned to a common security cracking technique: micro-drilling. A small hole is drilled through the door at a specific location in order to view the combination lock from the inside using a periscope. Based on his configuration, McOmie could then determine the correct code to open the door. But first, he should avoid triggering what is called a “mousetrap relocker,” a device placed in many high-security safes. âBasically, if the safe feels like it’s tampered with,â McOmie explained, âa spring-loaded mechanism goes off like a mousetrap, putting that block of metal in place, which physically causes the door to not s ‘open, even if you have the combination. “
Two drills, a carefully avoided mousetrap relocker, and several hours of drilling later, McOmie was able to peek inside with his periscope and examine the suit. âI could see each of the four little goblets, they looked like little whetstones, spinning one way or the other,â he said. “It was a beautiful sight to see.” From there, he dialed the correct code and opened the door. âEveryone applauded. I was a little embarrassed. When the door opened, the archivist looked inside before I did. I was just trained, for decades, not to look. “
Inside the vast vault was precisely what Prince’s estate – and fans around the world – had envisioned: piles upon piles of previously unreleased recorded material. âI don’t know the exact dimension, but about 20 feet by 40 feet,â McOmie said. âNow, by banking standards, it’s on the large side. And yet there was hardly any room in the safe, because it was just jam-packed with those industrial shelves, and every one of them. them was filled from the bottom up with adhesive tapes. “
In the fall of 2017, the safe was moved to a facility in Hollywood by Comerica Bank & Trust, the executors of Prince’s estate. Months later, a judge rejected a request by Prince’s siblings, heirs to the estate, to have the safe moved from Southern California over fears of nearby wildfires.
Prince’s 2010 studio album was shelved last summer Welcome 2 America has been released – one of the previously unseen finds located inside the safe. There is probably a lot more to come. The tapes found in the vault are estimated to contain around 8,000 unreleased songs, which the Prince Estate is currently planning and reviewing for future posthumous releases.
25 times the prince crossed paths with the biggest rock stars
Ask a musician if he has a Prince story to tell and he might surprise you.