Thanks to Hometown Life for this:

Don Powell opened his mailbox one day last August 2022 and found, along with the usual mix of bills and pizza coupons, two small dolls sitting on a miniature couch near a tiny table.

The pair and their furniture came with a note: “We’ve decided to live here. Mary and Shelley.”

Powell first thought the homely wooden figurines – a man and a woman – were put in his mailbox by mistake. He wondered if someone in the neighborhood was playing a joke.

“I went around to the other homes on the cul-de-sac to see if anyone else had gotten dolls in their mailbox,” the 72-year-old said. “No one had. There’s a neighbor across the street named Shelly; I knocked on her door and asked if she had done it, but she said no.”

A psychologist by trade, Powell is president and CEO of the Farmington Hills-based American Institute for Preventative Medicine, a company that facilitates worksite wellness programs for organizations and hospitals around the country.

He and wife Nancy ordered a custom mailbox after moving into their Orchard Lake home about five years ago.

At 26 inches deep, the mailbox was designed to look like the Powell’s home. It features a spacious interior with an open floor plan and plenty of windows to let in natural light. Solar powered ceiling lights illuminate the mailbox at night.

While it is against the law for someone other than the mailbox owner and the mail carrier to put items in a mailbox, Powell could see why a doll family might want to move in.

He was amused, but his first thought was to evict the couple and their belongings into the garbage can. But then, struck by a change of heart, he pushed the couple and their belongings to the back of the mailbox and went about his business.

That was just the beginning of the story. When Powell wasn’t looking, someone dropped off a dog for the couple living in the mailbox, along with a rug and even some art for the wall. Then came a four-poster bed.

“I thought, ‘OK, someone is really playing a joke on me,’” Powell said, admitting that by this time he was enamored by the situation and wanted to have some fun with it. “I didn’t think it was my neighbors.”

So he went on Nextdoor, a hyperlocal social networking service for neighborhoods.

In his first post on Nextdoor, Powell asked whether anyone would fess up and admit they put Mary and Shelley in his mailbox, or if they knew who did. No one came forward, so he posted again, joking that he’d contacted the police and asked them to do extra patrols of his mailbox.

“The whole thing got rather whimsical,” he said. “I have a quirky sense of humor.”

When Halloween rolled around, Mary and Shelley were mysteriously replaced by two dolls in skeleton costumes. Around Christmas, Mary and Shelley reappeared with miniature-sized gifts for their mailbox home. Powell took pictures and documented it all on Nextdoor.

“The response (on Nextdoor) was just incredible,” he said. “People were saying, ‘This is so much fun to read, I was ready to get off of Nextdoor, but this makes me want to stay.’”

Many posters, he said, were leaving comments and sending Powell messages asking for the next installment.

At some point, a second mystery note appeared, claiming the Mary and Shelley dolls formerly lived in a two-story Dutch-style doll house, but had decided Powell’s mailbox house was more accommodating for their cousin Shirley – a third figurine with a broken leg – who sometimes visited the couple.

“Then, after the ice storm, I did a post that said the family was locked in the mailbox and couldn’t get out,” Powell said. “Somebody asked if they lost power, I said ‘No, they don’t have power to begin with, but they do have a wood burning stove and were working from home.’”

In the beginning, Powell said, he was worried the mail carrier would stop delivering the mail. Given the large size of the mailbox, space has not been an issue. Calls to the West Bloomfield Post Office went unanswered.

Meanwhile, his wife, Nancy, said she’s been enjoying the saga and likes to see when new things are added to the mailbox – but doesn’t get as worked up about it as her husband.

“It’s very cute, “she said. “I get a laugh out of it…it’s a good positive thing, especially during these crazy times.”

Powell said no new furniture or other items have arrived in the last month or so. Still, at this point, he’s not sure he’s ready to learn the true identity of the person who brought Mary and Shelley into his life.

I’m kind of enjoying the mystery,” he said. “I look forward to new things being added to the mailbox.”

The author of numerous health-related books, Powell says the experience has given him a new idea.

“I am thinking, given the reaction (on Nextdoor), of writing a children’s book,” he said. “I think it creates a novel story.”

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