Storage auction fans may have had a pleasant surprise if they caught the October 8th episode of Castle, “Secret's Safe With Me.” The show, now on its fifth season, follows the exploits of a crime novelist who teams up with a local detective to solve crimes using his deductive reasoning and extensive list of contacts. In the October 8th episode, the investigation led the duo to a storage facility, where bidding on the contents of an abandoned unit was a crucial step in solving the crime. The detective team even gets into a bidding war to ensure they get the contents they need.
Storage facilities aren't exactly a new setting for crime dramas, but highlighting the auction itself is definitely a sign of the times. Castle is well-known for folding in plenty of pop culture references into each episode, and the auction was clearly a nod to the current auction-hunting phenomenon. That these auctions went from being relatively unknown and obscure to full pop-culture icons is a peculiar mark of our time.
Obviously, storage shows like Storage Wars and Auction Hunters have put the storage business front and center, but these shows wouldn't be popular if they didn't tap into something primal for viewers. Plenty of reality shows don't make it past the first few seasons, and they certainly don't all spawn spin-offs and creep into the public consciousness. So what is it about storage auctions that capture our imaginations so much?
There's certainly an element of treasure-hunting. The idea of finding something valuable and long-forgotten has been a powerful icon in our cultural mythology since before the written word. In a way, storage auction TV is just the newest iteration of the tale of Aladdin and the Cave of Wonders.
There's more to it, though. People are, in many ways, defined by their possessions. When we crack open a storage unit, we're doing more than sifting through items – we're sifting through a small part of a person's history. In a culture that's simultaneously more isolated and more connected than ever before, taking an intimate peek into each other's lives holds a lot of power for the public imagination.