ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – An Alamogordo man is at it again. He proved a 1980’s urban legend was true by uncovering hundreds of thousands of Atari games dumped in the landfill. Now more of those games are going up for auction.
The man’s name is Joseph R. Lewandowski, and he says he has a special city project the money will help to complete. “To me, it was this treasure hunt. This was ranked as like one of the number one urban legends of all time bigger and almost any urban legend you ever heard of,” says Lewandowski.
In 1983, the Atari gaming company paid Alamogordo to dump nearly 800,000 cartridges in the city’s landfill. Joe Lewandowski was working at the site when it all happened.
Years later, the story of the Atari dump grew into an urban legend, and Atari claimed it never happened. One day Lewandowski decided he wanted to find the hidden treasure, and he did.
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In 2015, Lewandowski uncovered hundreds of games at the old landfill site, including “Pac-Man,” “Star Raiders,” and the infamous “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” widely considered the worst game ever made. After the discovery, he put the games up for auction.
“This one little E.T. cartridge, somebody in Portland, Oregon would pay $1,500 for something like this. Or, you know, the one that was still in a box even though the box is crushed, similar to this one here,” says Lewandowski.
After selling nearly 800 games for $107,000, Lewandowski donated the money to city projects such as building a monkey house at the local zoo, buying police equipment, and installing a pergola at a library. Now he’s doing it again.
He saved 280 games in order to wait for the next city project he was passionate about. The project to restore an old elementary school named “Dudley School” and turn it into a community center, so he’s selling more games to help pay for the project.
When asked why he doesn’t keep all the money, Lewandowski says it’s about giving back to the community that gave him so much. “The city has given to us, you know, with the with our business and our family and growing up here and everything about the city it’s our home that we just felt like the money needed to go back into something that can be appreciated in the future,” says Lewandowski.
Lewandowski says he’s already put about sixty games up on eBay. He says he’ll add the rest up in the next few weeks.