Moving into a new house is always an adventure. Once you're in the new house, you can take your time exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the property and truly making the space your own. It's also exciting to be able to get a fresh start in a totally new place.
This man, who bought a new house in Tucson, Arizona, was hoping to find peace and quiet in his new living space. Instead, he found something utterly surprising. Keep reading to find out what he found buried in his new backyard.
A Regular Sale
When John Sims bought a new house in the quiet midtown neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona, it seemed like the property was as ordinary as any other. The sale was as uneventful as a sale can be, the inspection came back clear, the previous owners were perfectly nice. Pretty soon after he moved into the house, John heard a rumor about his new property that he couldn't get out of his head.
He heard that there was something buried in his backyard, and he wasn't going to rest until he thoroughly investigated this rumor.
The Previous Owners
Before John bought the property, the house was owned by a friend of his. John felt safe knowing that he was buying his new house from somebody who he knew and trusted. He thought that if there was anything strange going on with the house, his friend would have told him about it.
After John bought the house, his friend informed him about the weird rumors he had heard about the property. The rumors involved something mysterious being buried in the backyard.
Investigating The Rumors
John's friend had lived in the house for years, but he had never thought to confirm whether or not the rumors were true. He didn't have the time to go digging around in his own backyard. For a while, John thought that he could just forget about what he had heard. He got to work unpacking his belongings and setting up his furniture.
However hard he tried, he couldn't get rid of the nagging feeling that he just had to know what was under all of that grass and soil.
Getting To Work
John decided that he needed to see for himself if there was any truth to this rumor. He couldn't live in that house knowing that he could be literally sitting on a grand mystery. He decided to invest in a shovel and start digging.
After a few hours of poking at the ground with his shovel, John realized that he was going to need some bigger equipment. If there was something buried in his backyard, it was buried pretty deep.
He Had To Start Somewhere
John was willing to do just about anything it took to figure out what was buried in his yard. He knew that there was a strong possibility that the rumor wasn't true, that he was digging up his whole backyard for nothing. Still, he had to find out for sure.
He would be able to patch any holes in his lawn later, but nothing would quench his curiosity. He kept digging at the ground with his shovel until he could get his hands on some better tools.
A Hot Summer Sun
The weather in Arizona in the summer isn't very hospitable. Arizona is H-O-T hot. Sometimes the temperature gets into the triple digits. It was getting too dangerous for John to keep digging outside by himself during the heat of the day.
Many people would have given up at this point, but John was determined. John continued on with his mission. With his shovel in hand, he dug. And dug. He hoped this hard labor would pay off.
Holes All Over The Yard
John didn't know where in the yard he should start looking, so he just started digging up holes all over the place. He dug hole after hole, and after he had dug four pretty deep holes, he came up empty-handed. He was no closer to figuring out the mystery.
John was feeling pretty disappointed at this point. He was worried that if there was something to find in his yard, it might take him forever to locate it.
A Genius Idea
John was discouraged so he took a break from all of that digging. He was going to need a different approach. Instead of continuing to dig blindly, John decided to track down Tucson's municipal records.
He reviewed page after page until he located information about his own home. John was rewarded in a big way for all this intensive research. After a whole bunch of reading, he finally found a clue that would help him on his quest.
A Map Of The Property
John already knew a lot of the information about his own home that he found in the municipal records. He knew when his house was built and what it looked like. What he didn't know was what was in the backyard. But then he found a sketch that taught him something new.
According to the records, a company called Whitaker Pools had applied for a permit to work at the property back in 1961 – more than 50 years earlier. But John's home didn’t have a pool. So what could they have installed?
Calling In For Backup
John let the sketch lead the way. He wasn't going to keep digging random holes. He invested in a metal detector and he called in a team of consultants. Together with their help, John was finally going to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Now that he had the municipal records, he knew that there was some truth to the rumor he had heard. He could now justify paying for a bit of extra help.
Using The Metal Detectors
As the search turned more measured and focused, John hoped that he would soon learn whether those old, mysterious rumors about his new house were true. But as the team of consultants worked over different areas of his backyard, the metal detectors remained silent.
The tension mounted as it appeared that the consultants would also come up empty-handed in their search. But then the detectors began to go off. The sound was music to John's ears.
Exploring Other Sites
John was overjoyed to hear the experts' metal detectors pinging in the hot Arizona air. And in further good news, the machines located not just one spot of interest, but two! After carefully marking both the locations in his backyard, John was able to briefly rest as he planned the next step of his search.
Now John's efforts would be focused and he wouldn’t have to expend his efforts haphazardly. He could barely wait to discover what it was under his backyard.
Breaking Out The Shovel
John grabbed his shovel and got back to the hot and difficult task of digging. This time, however, he knew exactly where to focus his efforts. With anticipation, he began to dig at the two spots that the metal detectors had located.
His work paid off quickly at the second site pinpointed by the consultants. It wasn't long at all before he felt his shovel hit something hard, and he heard the tell-tale scrape of metal against metal. John was so close to solving his backyard mystery.
Diving Down Deep
John had been digging about three feet down into the earth when he first felt his shovel hit the metal object. While he was glad to finally discover something, he began to worry that it was a septic tank that he'd found.
Not only would a septic tank be a disappointing find after all this time and work, but it also meant that John had to be extra careful when he continued to dig around it. Damaging a septic tank or breaking a pipe would be very bad news, indeed.
It Wasn't A Septic Tank After All
He continued to dig, more carefully than before. To John's great delight, he realized that the object he’d found wasn’t a septic tank after all. No, it was something much, much more interesting than that.
He gingerly used his shovel to uncover the structure. It wouldn't be long now before John’s discovery was out in the open and ready to inspect. The anticipation of this made the time pass quickly as John worked.
Even More Questions
John had finally determined that the thing buried under his new home's backyard wasn’t a septic tank. But now that he had uncovered a substantial part of the structure and could visually examine it, there seemed to be even more questions to answer than when he started his journey.
The concrete form that John had unearthed appeared to be something resembling an entryway. But where did it lead, and how did you get into it?
Unveiling The Mystery
John was astonished to see that his backyard contained an entryway or portal of some sort, buried deep under the ground. He was so close to getting to the bottom of the mystery!
He continued to clear the area of earth and discovered that the entry had a hatch with a lid. He carefully pried the lid off, but his work as a fire department captain had taught him that it wasn't safe to enter the opening just yet.
Waiting All Day
You can probably imagine how excited John was to finally get some answers about his backyard's hidden secret. But waiting a day was necessary. His fire department training had taught him about the dangers of confined spaces.
The area could be filled with mold that could be very harmful to inhale, or toxic fumes. John also knew that he needed to have several people around when he finally went underground, to assist if the structure collapsed or if he became trapped somehow.
The Moment Of Truth
After a wait that must have felt excruciating, it was finally time for John to enter the hidden space beyond the hatch. The moment of truth had arrived for this backyard explorer – he was going to learn what exactly was down there.
John got down and cautiously looked into the hole framed by the metal hatch. The sight that met his curious eyes was completely unexpected! So what was it?
What Could It Be?
When John first looked down through the hatch, he was completely astonished at what he saw. It appeared to be an arrangement of sharp metal blades. What could their purpose be?
It wasn't long before his eyes adjusted and he was able to make out what it was that he was really looking at. The seemingly random metal blades were actually part of a spiral staircase, leading even deeper down into the earth under John’s property.
In his anticipation, John might have rushed right down the spiral staircase that he'd just uncovered in his backyard. After all, the truth behind the mystery was so close he could almost touch it.
But he did not. It was both his training as a fire captain and his good common sense that stopped John from entering the underground space that he'd found right on his own property. There were just too many risks involved.
Those Steps Weren't Stable
What were the risks of simply walking down the spiral steps leading down into the earth? Well, for starters the structure just wasn't stable. It had been built more than 50 years before John uncovered it, and he had no idea what condition it might be in.
And second, John knew it was best if there were people with him when he finally went down the hatch. They could help him out if he became trapped or if the structure collapsed. So he assembled a team of friends to help him make the structure safe to enter.
Hatching A Plan
John was playing it safe with his backyard find. Even though he was filled with excitement at the prospect of finally solving the mystery, he knew that his safety was more important than immediate gratification.
Along with his trusted friends, John came up with a strategy to proceed into the underground space safely. Their patient planning was soon going to pay off in a very big and unexpected way. And luckily they documented the discovery along the way to share the details of their findings.
Creating A New Passage
John had no earthly idea what condition the structure might be in, after sitting unused for decades. So he knew that he and his friends needed to reinforce the entire concrete entrance and repair it where necessary.
The spiral staircase leading down into the underground space also needed some serious attention. The metal steps were almost completely rusted through and not safe to stand on yet. They could even collapse if someone tried to use them in their current condition.
Now It's Rock Solid
John Sims and his friends widened and reinforced the entryway around the stairs with new rebar and multiple layers of concrete. To ensure entrants' safety, this step was absolutely necessary. The risk of a structural collapse was too great otherwise.
Their curiosity and excitement kept them going as they poured layer after layer of concrete. And their task was made all the more unbearable in the Arizona heat. They put up a tent to help block the sun and keep the temperature relatively cool.
Some More Tasks
John is obviously the type of person who thinks ahead. He knew that when he was finally, at long last, able to enter the mystery structure in his backyard he needed to be able to see. Many people would just rush ahead with a flashlight, but not John.
So he installed an electrical line that would allow for the space to be illuminated. He and his friends could also use power tools down there if necessary, once the electrical line was complete.
Finally, Some Fresh Air
As we've read, John’s work as a firefighter made him very aware of the danger of tight, enclosed spaces. Mold and gas leaks were a major concern in the 50-year-old structure he was about to enter.
John and his friends placed a pipe in the entryway. It would funnel fresh air down into the space, making things that much safer when they finally got to go in. It was almost time for everyone to see the secret that had long been hidden in John's backyard.
Unfortunately, John and his friends weren't able to repair that rusty spiral staircase yet – they’d have to be fixed from within the space. It was too risky to put any weight on the steps, since no one knew how sturdy they might be. So how would people descend into the space safely?
John had the solution. He got a tall ladder and securely placed it in the entryway. He was finally going to learn what was down there.
Finally Going Underground
At long last, John got to uncover the secret that he'd heard his friend talk about. He’d been nearly obsessed with learning the truth behind the rumor and had worked very hard to get to this moment.
He was about to climb down the ladder and into the mysterious hole in his backyard -- the first person in 50 years to do so! As John descended, his imagination ran wild. Just what was he about to see?
Deeper And Deeper
John lowered himself down the ladder, rung by rung, as his excitement grew. He stepped off the ladder and was finally rewarded for all his hard work.
He was shocked to learn that there was a vast room deep underneath his backyard! And it was in good shape, complete with a solid floor. But that wasn't all. In fact, there was an entire system of tunnels forming a complex down there!
All The Rumors Were True
John's friend, the former owner of the house John recently purchased, had told him about the existence of a secret buried deep in the backyard. Through research, John had learned that the structure in question had been built by a company called Whitaker Pools.
But this underground cavern was clearly not a pool. The year it was constructed, 1961, was a huge clue to the structure's intended purpose. And John knew what that purpose was as soon as he laid eyes on the space.
It Was Showing Its Age
Although the structure seemed to be in pretty good shape given its age, one thing was a giveaway to John that he still had some work to make the space safe. The clue was in the fiberglass ceiling.
Fiberglass can be extremely toxic to people if they breathe it in, and is an irritant to bare skin. And the fiberglass in the ceiling was coming apart – not a good thing at all. But it was something that could be repaired, fortunately. And John wasn't ready to give up on his new find anyway, after all the work he had put in.
After All This Time
The structure below John Sims' house, although huge, was empty of furnishings or any other décor. It became obvious immediately that the underground bunker was built as a nuclear fallout shelter.
Many people had grown fearful, even paranoid, during the period of Cold War hostilities between the Soviet Union and the U.S., and had built backyard bomb shelters as a result. But why had a company called Whitaker Pools built a nuclear bunker?
Another Job For Pool Builders
It turns out that Whitaker Pools had responded to consumer demand during the Cold War and had added building backyard bomb shelters to its list of services. In fact, this was pretty common across the country.
As pool builders realized that building fallout shelters wasn't all that different from building inground pool shells, many of them expanded their operations accordingly. By 1961, one Los Angeles company called Catalina Pools had built 500 shelters!
What To Turn This Place Into?
What would you do if you discovered that you had an enormous maze of rooms buried right in your own backyard? How would you use the space? John's friends had some fun ideas for him, including a cigar bar, wine cellar, or "man cave."
Other people around the world have converted old bunkers into beautiful modern homes, hotels, art galleries, and recording studios. But John had something different in mind for his backyard treasure.
Turning To Others
After posting about his bomb shelter online, John Sims learned that he was in good company. His post on Reddit went viral, and he began connecting to others who have backyard fallout shelters.
His interest in these shelters, and the Cold War era, has grown. In fact, he has special plans to turn his own historical bunker into a museum of sorts – meaning he has a lot of work ahead of him. So what was the next step for John?
Asking For Some Funding
John's next step in restoring his bunker to its former glory was setting up a GoFundMe page. He wrote, "Hi, I'm John and I need some help restoring a vintage Fallout Shelter that I have uncovered in my back yard.“
He was specifically looking for assistance in reconstructing the shelter's entryway, since that needed to be done before he could start making repairs and improvements downstairs. He elaborated, "the upper entry needs a large concrete pour to secure the entry and the metal circular staircase needs to be replaced." John estimated that the project would cost around $2,000.
A New Stairway
Although John's GoFundMe campaign was widely shared and he received several hundred dollars in donations, the goal of raising $2,000 for the stairway rebuild ultimately fell short. Of course, that didn't stop John from proceeding with his plans! He even took time off from his job to work on the all-important staircase.
After sharing a series of updates on the project, John reported that the entry area was finally done: "Stairs are finished! Now it's easy and safe to climb in and out." He also posted a photo of the completed stairs, which are painted an appealing shade of blue.
Much Safer Than Before
On his GoFundMe page, John shared further details for his shelter now that the staircase and entryway are done. "My plans are to clean up the interior, repaint it and turn it into a really cool man cave, HAM shack,and Civil Defense Museum."
He continued, "Once I started this project I researched a bunch about the Cold War period and how the civilian fears prompted many people to build these shelters." Discovering this bunker has clearly made a big impact on John's life!
Bringing Back Some History
John has already begun amassing supplies and props for the museum portion of his backyard shelter. He says that he's found artifacts like water supply barrels, Geiger counters, HAM radios, and sanitation kits to display.
Pictured here are some of the items John plans to display at his museum. It's impressive that he was able to get a hold of so many vintage pieces that were in excellent condition to teach others.
What Are You Going To Do With That Hole?
The first thing I would have thought if I came across one of my neighbors digging a hole this size is that they have plans for an in-ground swimming pool. Frankly, even if it was just a giant swimming pool, I think his entire neighborhood would be jealous.
However, Wayne decided to fill that hole with something more than water. After laying down some gravel, he brought in something that definitely doesn't fit in any pool. Neighbors quickly took notice once Wayne brought a 20-foot shipping container onto his lawn.
Buying A 20-Foot Container
So before Wayne even started digging a hole, he went out and purchased a 20-foot shipping container. It's pretty surprising how many of these giant containers you can find out on the internet at incredibly affordable prices.
As any DIYer knows, one of the most important things to do is keep costs low. It can be incredibly easy to lose track of your spending and splurge on products you don't actually need. The fact that Wayne was able to find a container of this size and keep his budget low really helped make his project come together. But what did he need the container for exactly? We'll find out soon!
Sealing It Up
The first step after purchasing his container was making sure to seal it shut. Instead of using the giant double doors, Wayne instead made sure to seal them shut and instead installed a swinging door on the other side.
He didn't just seal those doors though — he made sure nothing could get in or out, especially leaks. The other important thing he did was made sure that the door he installed swing inward, not outward. He now had a one-way entry point to his container. Trust me — this will make a ton of sense once you see what he did next!
Measure Twice, Dig Once
The biggest mistake Wayne could have made was digging a hole that was too small for his container. So he made sure to make the hole at least two feet deeper than the height of the container.
He also left about two feet of space on all sides of where the container would be placed, and extra room around where the door would swing out. Wayne would have run into some trouble if he hadn't thought of that first!
He Lined the Bottom With Pea Gravel
Wayne also lined the bottom with a layer of pea gravel. This was incredibly important because the container needed a soft place to lie on while also being able to filter through to the soil below.
At this point, I think you know what he had planned for the container and the hole, but what was the goal of his project? Well, there's a reason that he wanted a bit of extra room above the container.
Sometimes You Still Need To Call In A Pro
Even though a lot of this project is meant as a DIY project, sometimes you just have to reach out to a professional. Not everyone has a crane that can pick up a 20-foot container and lower it into a giant hole in their lawn, so Wayne called in a septic tank company to do the dirty work for him.
Honestly, this was a much better idea than trying to round up some friends to try and figure out a way to get the container down there. So the container's in the hole now, but what is Wayne's plan? It's a little more intricate than you might think.
Fits Like A Glove
So there are plenty of reasons to make the hole a little bigger than the container, and it's more than just a little bit of wiggle room. Wayne lefter about two feet of space on each side, as well as a few feet in front of the swinging door.
Now that the container is in the hole, the real project begins. It might seem pretty obvious what Wayne has planned, but I guarantee the finished product will really inspire you to up your DIY game.
Every Bunker Needs A Sump Pump
So a sump pump is a piece of equipment used in plumbing that helps drain water out of enclosed spaces. This is a very crucial piece to the puzzle when you're putting anything below ground. It allows you to keep your bunker above the water line, so you generally find these in basements.
The last thing you want for your underground bunker is for a flood to ruin anything you put inside it. But what was Wayne planning on putting inside his bunker exactly? The answer to that question is coming up in just a bit.
An Entrance Fit For A King
Naturally, when you're making an underground bunker, you need to have a way to get inside it. Wayne did the logical thing and laid down a set of concrete steps and made sure the top stair was at the same level as the top of his bunker.
I think most people would prefer a simple staircase to something like a ladder or a fire pole to slide down. Now that he had his bunker in the ground and the stairway complete, Wayne could set out on completing the exterior and get ready to outfit the inside.
Everyone Needs A Support Beam
Wayne was very smart to install these two I-beams to ensure his bunker was as stable as possible. You probably wouldn't think that a giant 20-foot container could move much, but the ground could easily shift and leave his bunker unbalanced.
These two beams actually served another purpose. Not only were they there to provide support for the bunker, but they also acted as a frame for some of Wayne's other plans for the exterior of his underground bunker. What else does Wayne have planned anyway? You'll see in just a bit.
Is He Making A Roof?
I guess I didn't consider that when you're installing an underground bunker, you need to take the necessary precautions to make sure the roof is stable too. Wayne added a tone of framework on top to support a roof, which makes a ton of sense why he added the I-beams in the first place.
This also helps show just what he has in store for the rest of the bunker. I'm glad he made sure to dig that hole a little extra deep because this looks like it's going to blend in perfectly with the rest of his yard.
An Underground Roof
It's kind of hard to think about a roof being underground, but that's precisely the plan here. Wayne laid down heavy sheets of metal down across the framework that is stable enough to support a person's weight... and even a dog!
Obviously, this is just the first steps to laying down the roof, but it gives us a great idea of what they had planned. Now that the exterior was taking shape, we still need to know what's going on with the inside of the bunker. What's he planning on putting in there anyway?
More Than Just A Staircase
We already shed some light on how the staircase would be the only way in and out of the bunker, but Wayne wasn't satisfied with just a regular entranceway. Once he had the roof all set up and secure, he got to work making a grand entranceway for his bunker.
He left an opening from the roof and set up some rebar to help keep everything supported. This is such an underrated aspect of his whole project. Why go to the trouble of all of this if you're going to have a simple entranceway? Go big or go home.
Piling On The Concrete Blocks
Obviously, Wayne took safety very seriously when he was putting together his bunker. Not only did he make sure that his bunker was safe and secure in the ground, but he also made sure that everything was up to code.
This was clearly built to last, and it almost seems like this could work as a makeshift bomb shelter if need be. But is that what Wayne's been building this whole time, or does he have a different plan for his underground bunker?
Pump That Air In
As crucial as it was to make sure there was a sump pump installed to make sure that water could be filtered through the soil, the most important addition was the air vents. You probably won't be able to last very long underground without access to fresh air, so Wayne made sure to install two 12-inch air vents in the front and back of the bunker.
This is probably a good indicator that Wayne plans to spend a good amount of time in his bunker, but for what reason? It's actually way more practical than you might think.
Time To Pour The Concrete
You might have thought that everything was already in place, but Wayne wasn't taking any chances. The ground can move and shift, especially in the winter when it freezes, so Wayne made sure to encase his bunker in concrete along the sides as well as on top of the roof.
As you can see, this is a perfect pour. Everything looks nice and smooth, and should be able to fit in perfectly with the rest of his yard. You can see how much of his yard has been taken over by this project, but it's quickly coming together and is all going to be worth it in the end.
Six Inches Of Separation
If you thought that Wayne just put a thin layer of concrete over his bunker, you'd be dead wrong. He made sure to put six inches over the top, which is surprisingly thick. It looks like he plans on making his bunker safe and secure, and able to take a beating, whether it be rain, sleet, or snow.
Now that he has his bunker set up to protect against anything life has to throw at it, he can get to work on the interior of the project.
Even More Blocks
Once all that concrete dried, Wayne went back to basics and added even more cinder blocks through the rebar to his entryway. Clearly, he wanted the entryway to stand out and really be protected.
As the only part of the bunker that would have to deal with the elements, more protection is always better. That door is definitely going to take a beating over the years, so any way you can block out things like poor weather conditions or animals, the better. Now that he's finally done the outside, we can take a trip down those steps to see what the inside is like!
Removing The Temporary Support Beams
As we've said time and time again, when doing a project like this, safety is key. There's absolutely no reason to cut corners and not take every precaution necessary that your bunker is safe and secure. And when you're spending this kind of time and money, it just doesn't pay to take shortcuts.
So once the concrete dried and was stable, Wayne could finally remove the support beams that helped keep the roof secured. All those cinderblocks looked like they were for show, but they all helped provide the foundation for a perfect bunker.
Fill In The Soil Around It
The last thing you want is for your bunker to be sitting out in the middle of your yard in a dirt pit, so Wayne made sure to use some high-end soil to fill the space surrounding the entrance. That means he can go back once everything is done and plant some plants to help it blend in and fit with the rest of his lawn.
You can see that the finished product won't even make it look like there was a giant hole there in the first place. And I doubt anyone will expect to find a bunker laying underneath.
Wait, Is That Wine?
I don't know what I was expecting, but I don't think I was expecting this cellar to be filled with wine. However, it makes a lot of sense. Wine and other liquor (is that bourbon, I see?) are best stored underground, and the cool atmosphere should help it last for generations to come.
But is that the only reason he built this bunker, or does he have even bigger plans for this cellar?
More Than Meets The Eye
The great thing about a container like this is that it can fit so many different needs. As you can see from the back, there is plenty of room for storage, so while he has plans for filling it with wine, it could also be a great place to store your Christmas decorations or non-perishable foods in case of an emergency.
Imagine that something bad like a natural disaster happens? Now Wayne has a shelter built to meet his needs if he needs to hunker down for a couple of hours, or even a couple of days. And the best part is that it doesn't take up any space in his yard because it's all underground!
The Plans Are Available to All
One of the most interesting aspects of Wayne's project is that with a little bit of money and some resources, anyone can do this themselves. Instead of creating his own secret bunker, Wayne decided to share his masterpiece with the world, down to how he created it.
He even shared the specs of his container, noting the aspects that builders will need to pay close attention to if they attempt to recreate it themselves. Wayne even provided some tips he learned along the way.
A Few Tips
While Wayne was finished with his bunker, he did share a couple of tips or recommendations for people who might also try to install their very own bunker. One of his suggestions is adding handrails down to the stairs for security. Frankly, that's a great idea, especially if you live somewhere cold where those stairs could get icy and slippery.
Also, he said that it might make sense to build a small overhang over the entrance. Again, this would be a great idea if you live somewhere where the elements could leave your stairs icy or even fill the hole with rainwater. Also, it wouldn't be a bad idea to help keep critters out of your walkway.
What Did This Cost?
In the end, all of Wayne's hard work came at a price, but it's way more reasonable than you might think. All in all, Wayne spent $12,500 on his DIY bunker, which is insanely reasonable.
He did say that he did most of the work all by himself, and he did have his own tractor, which likely helped with things like filling in the soil and even digging the hole in the first place. This is one resourceful way to go about creating a bunker. Other people are turning to the emerging bunker companies that will help build one for you. Is this something you can see doing at your home?