A widow made a shocking discovery when she hired a team to do some work in her attic: She learned that was where her late husband stored much of his secret taxidermy collection.

Julie Gittoes told the Mirror that she was initially confused when the crew asked her what she wanted done with all the boxes in the space. When they brought them down, she discovered an impressive hoard that included an eel and a stuffed lion's head from the 1920s.

According to the New York Post, there were at least 12 pieces in the attic she was previously unaware of. She made an even larger find in the garage, where her late husband Kevin stashed away about 150 taxidermied critters.

Gittoes said that she knew her partner was intrigued by the art form and was a collector, but she was unaware of the size of his collection. Equally surprising was the age of some of the items. The Mirror reports that one display of a puppy, red squirrels and a green woodpecker dated back to the 1860s.

The collection evoked a happy memory of her husband. "I'm amazed Kevin managed to squirrel them away without me knowing," she said. "It makes me smile now to think of Kevin smuggling those pieces into the loft."

How did he manage to get his purchases in without his wife knowing? As it turns out, their son helped with the sneaking.

She added that her husband's interest dated back years. He apparently passed it on to his children — their daughter did a project on the subject in school when she was 10.

Gittoes speculated on a reason that her husband kept the sheer size of his stash a secret: "I think he felt a bit guilty about buying so many pieces so he didn't tell me," she told the New York Post.

Although they brought a smile to her face, Gittoes plans to auction off the collection, which is expected to fetch around $13,000 later this month. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to a cancer charity.

Charles Hanson, owner of the auction house that took on the Gittoes' collection, commented on the historical significance of taxidermy. In many ways, it was initially an answer to humanity's curiosity about nature.

“In Edwardian and Victorian times people had a deep fascination with natural history, just as we do today," he told the New York Post. "However, they couldn’t switch on the TV to watch nature programs or tune into the latest series from Sir David Attenborough.”

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