ROTTERDAM - A 76-year-old woman was killed in a fire on the Noordsingel in Rotterdam. Emergency services found, after extinguishing the fire, a significant fortune in the home. In many places there were bags and suitcases with money. That was not visible in the house, which was in a terrible state even before the fire.

The woman, Taja van der ham, lived together in the shack with her brother Adriaan three years younger, better known as ‘Spokie’ (a nickname that children in the neighborhood have given him). During the fire, the brother wanted to re-enter the house again and again. The man was admitted to the Delta Hospital with burns.

The fire started on the ground floor, probably after a paraffin stove toppled over. The man tried to extinguish the flames, but that did not work out. He fled out, while his sister went upstairs. The woman was found upstairs.

* The 73-year-old Adriaan van der Ham (also known in the neighborhood as "Spokie") is forced by the police and fire brigade not to re-enter his burning house on Noordsingel. Foto: Ary Groeneveld, Stadsarchief Rotterdam


Shortly after the fire, police found a zinc bucket completely filled with silver rixdollars. The police then decided to place the house under permanent surveillance.

After that, bags were made, boxes, bags with money dragged out. There was fl. 4.600 guilders in a soap box. Part of the money was also in and under the mattress in the box bed, in which the two slept. There was a shotgun next to the box bed, that "Spokie" probably wanted to use, when burglars came in.

Officers found a complete pile of gold tenner, valuable old coins from the mid-20th century and a paper bag with hundred bills.

It was expected that approximately fl. 125.000 guilders in cash was in the house. But that amount could just be higher. The man may also have buried riches in the garden.

The police had to rent a safe from the bank to store all valuables. In addition to money, the police found gold watches, Chains, silver and gold jewelry.

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All the riches are in stark contrast to the way the brother and sister lived. In the old house, five old kerosene heaters provided the only heat in the house. There was no electricity. There was no glass in the windows, but plastic was hung in front of it.

How the man got the money is a mystery. The couple probably lived extremely frugally.

The couple already lived 45 years in the old house. Neighbors had already suspected that the two had a large sum of money in the house, but usually the estimates did not exceed a thousand guilders. There was no certainty, because Adriaan and Taja did not let anyone into their house. With that, people could only guess about what was going on in the house.

Hoe ging het verder?

In the days following the discovery of the treasure, crowds of people gather around the brother and sister's house. The backyard is also being digged, because there may also be something hidden there.

There appears to be nothing in the garden. However, there is still more hidden inside, than anyone can imagine. The police find coins and notes everywhere. “We find money in all kinds of paper bags”, says chief inspector Bol of the police in Het Vrije Volk. “He put a guilder and a dime in one bag, put it in another bag with a tenner and some change, and so on. It takes us hours. We have to carefully rip open all the bags at the top so as not to damage the money. ”

The idea exists that there are more than 250.000 gulden (converted to current standards: 497.000 euro) in the house.

For example, two thousand golden tens have been found. Only the tens with the statue of Willem II are worth a lot of money. The rest is "only" 40 guilders each.

How the pair got the money also remains a mystery. Adriaan is already 37 years old (!) age has gone into early retirement. He has worked as a civil servant at the municipality of Rotterdam.

The house on Noordsingel will be guarded by the police for days. After five days, the police search is completed.

Taja van der Ham is on 26 mei 1971 buried in the famous Hofwijk cemetery. Her brother Adriaan was then admitted to a psychiatric hospital. There are no relatives or acquaintances present at the funeral.


Van der Ham also turned out to have two pieces of land, in the wooded area of ​​Bilthoven. The two pieces together have a size of six thousand square meters. The value of that land is 300.000 gulden.

Spokie is also known in Bilthoven, it turns out days later. He came there once a month, local sources say, with a white bag and a shovel.

The police in Bilthoven begs Het Vrije Volk not to disclose this story, because they are afraid that it will attract a lot of fortune-seekers to Bilthoven.

According to a broker, who had provided it for years on the plots of "Spokie", he's just looking for acorns there.

Back home

More than a month after the fire, "Spokie" returns home. He doesn't have a good word about it, about his treatment. He was declared insane, but he wasn't, so he says.

That there was a lot of money in the house, Adriaan knew that. But he knew nothing about a lot of things. It all belonged to his sister, he explains. There is nothing in Bilthoven, he adds. The plot of land was intended to build a house there, but that never happened.

The story surrounding "Spokie" is not over with that. A few months later it is announced that Van der Ham will be placed under guardianship. Two family members enter the property, which is then estimated at one million guilders, manage.

Eind 1975 Adriaan van der Ham dies at the age of 77. He spends his last hours with family members, who live on the Noordsingel.


Algemeen Dagblad – 24-05-1971 – Elderly woman burned

Het Vrije Volk – 25-05-1971 – Taja and Adriaan slept in their money

Het Vrije Volk – 26-05-1971 – Treasure digging in the garden of old Adriaan

Het Vrije Volk – 27-06-1971 – Treasure of hermit more than quarter million

Algemeen Dagblad – 28-05-1971 – No more money in Spokies’ House

Het Vrije Volk – 28-05-1971 – Bilthoven also knows Spokie!

Het Vrije Volk – 28-06-1971 – Adriaan van der Ham back to empty house

De Volkskrant – 20-01-1972 – Rich eccentric in receivership

Het Vrije Volk – 07-01-1976 – ‘Spokie’ to bury

Author: Dave Datema

published: 09-10-2020

story number: 154

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