"Kindred Spirit" mailbox collects secrets from around the nation

BIRD ISLAND, N.C. -- If you've ever felt you just had to get something off your chest, CBS News' Chip Reid may have found the perfect place to do it.

On a remote beach on the coast of North Carolina stands a solitary mailbox. Who put it here and why has long been a mystery -- until now.

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Frank Nesmith created the
CBS News
Frank Nesmith says he and a former girlfriend placed the original "Kindred Spirit" mailbox in a remote location more than 35 years ago. They left a notebook inside, hoping people would leave messages. But they never dreamed it would be so successful.

Over the years thousands have come here to share their innermost thoughts, and to read about the lives of others.

"Dear 'Kindred Spirit'. What a beautiful morning. I am so thankful for the gift of life," Nesmith reads from a notebook.

The notes range from purest joy to deepest grief.

"Dear princess. To my dear, sweet, beautiful wife. God took you to heaven ... I think of you every moment. I miss you more each day," reads Nesmith.

For some families it's become a tradition.

Now 87, Nesmith doesn't come here as often as he used to, so he has helpers who replenish the mailbox, including local author Jacqueline DeGroot.

DeGroot says, "Every kind of emotion you can imagine is in those journals."

Some share their deepest secrets.

"Dear 'Kindred Spirit'. I was going to visit my dad, who walked out on my family 50 years ago. I found out where he now lives, drove to his house, but I couldn't get out of the car," read DeGroot.

A lot of people open up to the 'Kindred Spirit' mailbox in a way that they don't in their everyday lives.

"Oh yeah, they are amazing stories," DeGroot replies.

The journals are now part of a special collection at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Nesmith says most of the messages are about love, family and hope.

Does this restore Nesmith's faith in humanity?

"Oh my blessed yes. Read about 30 minutes in one of these books, you'll walk away having a whole better feeling about the world that you live in," he says.

A world where people who never meet can be "Kindred Spirits."

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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