For most, a backyard is a place to unwind and relax. But for one lucky homeowner, he got a lot more than he bargained for. After hearing a rumor about his property, he decided to investigate - and what he found left him stunned.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
It all started when John Sims bought a new home in the midtown neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona. But after moving into his new humble abode, the homeowner stumbled across the surprise of a lifetime.
According to the previous homeowners, there was something buried deep within the backyard of the new Arizona home. The curious new homeowner couldn't help himself. He needed to know what was going on in his very own yard - so he set out to uncover the mysterious secret.
As the story goes, when John had first bought his new home, he actually purchased it from a friend of his. Upon making it official, he felt secure and comfortable knowing that if there had been something wrong or problematic with the house, his friend would have been honest with him about it.
However, after the contract had been signed, sealed, and delivered, his friend revealed some unexpected and startling news. His friend admitted that there were some obscure rumors haunting the house - specifically about something mysterious being buried on the property years prior.
Exploring the Property
Johns's friend had revealed undeniably intriguing information to the homeowner about his new home. However, Johns's friend had never taken the time to actually investigate the rumors himself. It's unbelievable to think anyone could ignore such a mystery - especially in their own backyard.
As Sims was unpacking and getting comfortable in his new home, he couldn't help but wonder what was going on in his very own backyard. The beginning tasks of moving into a new house don't usually include investigating strange mysteries, but this was a little different.
The Investigation Begins
John had become invested in finding out what was going on in the backyard of his new property; he became slightly obsessed with solving the mystery. He instantly decided he would get to the root of things and do whatever it took to figure out the home's secret.
Upon hearing the rumored news from his friend, Sims knew the information was his to discover. He even jokingly asked to borrow a shovel. Although he had no clue what he was looking for, he was dedicated to uncovering something. But little did he know, he would need more than a shovel.
Things Began Heating Up
But where would he start? He had a shovel but no clue what he was looking for. There was even the possibility that upon digging, he would find absolutely nothing. Sims was willing to take the risk and figured he could fix up his lawn later after shoveling it all up.
However, John lived in Tucson, Arizona, and to put it gently, it gets pretty hot in the summer - with an average high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the determined man was so motivated to find out what was going on that he was willing to get passed the dangerously high temperatures and get to digging.
An Empty Promise
John went in with quite literally no plan when he decided to start excavating throughout his backyard. The task at hand was no joke and required a lot of labor and rigorous hours of digging! But after he had excavated four separate holes, he still came up empty.
The determined man had essentially ruined his backyard with the amount of digging and gouging he had done. By this point, John started to worry if he would ever find the secret "something" tucked away in his outdoor space. So, he decided to take a little break.
Checking His Sources
He was disappointed over the amount of work he had put into solving the backyard mystery with no tangible results. What was he to do? John decided it was time to re-think his strategy and, in doing so, thought of a new game-plan to solve the mystery at hand. So what was his grand plan?
John completely changed his master plan and decided to go back to the source. He traced down the Tucson municipal records in order to receive more information regarding his new home. To his luck, all the hard work wasn't for nothing. He gained some crucial clues in uncovering what might have happened in his backyard.
Following a Lead
After combing through the Tucscon municipal records, John didn't find out much other than the information he already knew, such as the year his home was built. However, he learned something valuable due to a rough sketch of the house's layout found in the files.
After flipping through the records, John found out that a company called Whitaker Pools had applied for a permit to work on his property over 50 years earlier, in 1961. However, John's home didn't have a pool, so what in the world did a pool company want to work on in his backyard?
Going Beneath the Surface
Now that John had discovered more and more clues regarding the state of his backyard, he was extra-determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. The sketch had given John a deeper inside look at the backyard's layout, so he knew he was going to need more than a shovel to really capture anything.
With this information, John decided it was time to take his solo search to new levels. Sims hired a team of consultants who might have been better equipped for the job than he was. And when they arrived, they showed up with something worth way more than a shovel: metal detectors.
The Plot Thickens
Now that John had brought on a team of experts, he felt optimistic in his plan to get to the bottom of things. He was determined to learn if those rumors he heard were indeed true - and, better yet, uncover the secret himself. However, with the metal detectors in full force, nothing was happening.
John was losing hope after seeing the team try their hardest to find the answers they've been looking for but still end up empty. The pressure was at an all-time high. And then suddenly, the metal detectors started to go off: the moment John had been waiting for had finally arrived.
X Marks the Spot(s)
After hearing the sweet beeping sound of the metal detectors going off, the curious homeowner was thrilled! To his surprise, the machines located not just one relevant spot but two. So after marking the exact locations, John felt like he could take a break and plan his next steps moving forward.
Now that John had confirmation something was going on in his backyard, he could focus his efforts on the two identified locations. Thanks to the municipality's records, the team of experts, those metal detectors, and Johns's constant efforts to solve the mystery, he knew he was one step closer...
Going Three Feet Down
Now that John knew the exact two locations to focus on when searching for the "buried treasure," he was able to jump into the next task at hand. He grabbed that shovel and started digging - and it didn't take long before he hit something hard on the second site pinpointed by the consultants.
He dug about three feet down into the earth when he heard the sound of metal hitting against metal. He knew he had uncovered something. He was so close, but worried it was a septic tank that he found. Discovering a septic tank would not only be disappointing after all his hard work, but potentially damaging as well!
The Big Reveal
John realized that if he had hit a septic tank or broke an underground pipe, it would not be good at all. Luckily, after digging deeper and deeper carefully, he realized that it was not a septic tank that he had found. In fact, it was something a lot more fascinating.
Using his singular shovel, John could carefully maneuver around the unidentified structure. In fact, he was so close to the final stages of uncovering the below-ground mystery that the excitement and anticipation made him work faster towards his goal!
Inching Closer and Closer
Determined to keep working, John had finally uncovered a decent amount of the unknown structure. It seemed the concrete form that John discovered was some sort of an entryway. Upon viewing the partially hidden treasure, Sims had even more questions than when he did when he started. Where did it lead to - and how would he access it?
John was shocked to uncover a secret portal of sort buried deep under the lawn. He continued to dig and found the hatch actually had a lid attached. Slowly, Sims pulled the cap off the top. If working as a fire department captain taught him anything, it was to wait to check that it was safe before going in.
Proceed With Caution
He had finally cracked the case! Well, sort of. John was thrilled about finally receiving some of the answers he deserved after all this time. However, he had to wait a day before he would enter. His fire department training taught him about all the possible dangers of entering a small and confined space.
John had uncovered a hatch with a lid but was unsure what was beneath it. The unidentified area could be filled with mold or toxic fumes that could be dangerous to inhale. In case something happened, the fire department captain knew he needed a team with him before heading down there.
What Was It?
After a long day of waiting, the moment of truth had finally arrived, and John was ready to finally uncover the unknown space tucked away in his backyard. The determined and hard-working new homeowner was ready to see what was hidden behind the mysterious hatch.
John was determined - but still had no clue what he would uncover. With so many questions racing through his head, Sims examined extra carefully and then closely looked into the hole framed by the metal hatch. And just like that, he couldn't believe his eyes.
At first, John looked down through the metal hatch and was completely shocked at what he saw. It looked like some combination of sharp metal blades, confusing John even more about what it could be. However, he slowly realized what he was looking at…
The assortment of metal blades actually was the beginning of a spiral staircase that led somewhere else. As curious and confused as he was, John knew to wait before dashing down the staircase - just in case something ominous was waiting for him on the other side.
Taking a Step Back
In this situation, there were many risks at hand for John. For starters, he had no idea what was leading down the spiral steps and if it was even stable enough to hold his weight coming down. It had been built 50 years prior, so its condition was completely unknown.
In addition to not knowing if it would be strong enough to support him, John knew that it would be best if people were there when he finally did go down the hatch. A motivated Sims put together a team of friends to be there if he became trapped or if the structure collapsed while he was inside.
Hatching a Plan
The stakes were high. John had to play it safe. In injunction with his fire dependant friends, Sims came up with a safe strategy to proceed forward. Soon, their patient plan would pay off. And luckily for us, they would also document their findings along the way.
John had literally no idea what he was getting himself into. He and his trusted team decided it was best to reinforce the whole concrete entrance and repair it in spots where needed. They were unsure of the state of the staircase, as the metal steps were full of rust and could potentially collapse if not taken care of.
Navigating the Entryway
Sims and his friends had a plan moving forward, and together they were ready to uncover what was hidden beneath the surface of his once-grassy lawn. The hard-working team widened and reinforced the entryway around the stairs with new layers of concrete and rebar to ensure John's safety when heading down there.
The team worked hard as they poured layers of concrete on top of each other to best reinforce the old hatch. However, with their curiosity reaching new heights, they were motivated to keep going - even despite the perilous Arizona heat they were dealing with.
Almost at the Finish Line
John clearly was an organized thinker. He knew that once he breached the structure's entryway, he would need a way to see what was up ahead. He decided to install an electrical line that would give him ample light to proceed with caution and allow him and his friends to work down there if needed.
With John's background knowledge as a firefighter, he was the perfect person for the job at hand. Mold, gas leaks, and toxic fumes were amongst his biggest concerns, so John and his team placed a pipe in the entryway that allowed for fresh air to funnel down into the space. The big reveal was near.
With everything almost ready to go, John and his friends could not repair the rusty spiral staircase from the outside. After realizing they would have to tend to the rust from the inside, they didn't know what to do and how to safely proceed with caution. For now, at least.
However, they were more than determined than ever by this point. John and his team of experts found the solution to the rusty staircase problem. Sims secured a tall ladder and positioned it by the entryway. He was finally ready to go down into the unknown. There was no going back now.
The Moment of Truth
The moment he had been waiting for was finally here: He was about to climb down the ladder into the secret hole tucked away in his backyard. Being the first person in 50 years to go down, there was a surreal feeling. As John descended down into the bisque, he couldn't help but wonder what was he about to see?
With excitement and curiosity at their peak, John carefully lowered himself down the ladder to finally uncover what had been secretly lurking down there for so many years! He was astonished to find a deep room in good shape - full of an entire complex tunneling system. But what exactly was it?
A Secret Safe Room?
It seemed like the whole time, the rumors were true - there was a secret buried in the backyard. After detailed research, John learned Whitaker Pools had built the structure, but the uncovered system was clearly no pool. Given that it was built in 1961, John immediately guessed the structure's purpose.
Even though the structure appeared to be in good shape, the fiberglass ceiling was John's signal he still needed to proceed with caution. Although fiberglass could be highly toxic, it was something that could be repaired, so John knew his next step moving forward would be to take care of the dangerous material.
Ties to the Cold War
Once John was down there, it became clear to him what the empty and ample space was used for back in 1961. Sims connected the dots and came up with the conclusion that the underground bunker was built as a nuclear fallout shelter during the Cold War era.
During the Cold War period, many people became fearful of the growing hostility between the Soviet Union and the U.S. So, in response, people had built backyard bomb shelters in case they needed shelter. However, why was a company called Whitaker Pools building the nuclear bunker unit?
Connecting the Dots
As it turned out, Whitaker Pools not only built pools for their customers but, during the Cold War, added building backyard bomb shelters to its resume. They realized it was not all that different from building inground pool shells and was in high demand. By 1961, one L.A. company called Catalina Pools had built 500 shelters.
Now that he had uncovered this massive maze of rooms built in his backyard, what was he to do with the space? Some of John's friends suggested he turn the bunker into a cigar bar, wine cellar, or "man cave." Fellow bunker-owners have turned the spare room into modern homes, hotels, art galleries, and recording studios.
A Public Plea
John took his newfound discovery to Reddit, where he learned of fellow backyard fallout shelter owners. With the viral news, his interest in the Cold War era grew. He decided to turn the once-kept secret shelter into some sort of museum. So, he had a lot of work cut out for him.
He set up a GoFundMe page to receive help with reconstructing the shelter's entryway. "I need some help restoring a vintage Fallout Shelter that I have uncovered in my backyard." He continued, "the upper entry needs a large concrete pour to secure the entry, and the metal circular staircase needs to be replaced."
The Finished Product
John estimated the overall cost of the project to cost him around $2,000, so he got to fundraising. Despite his campaign being widely shared, he received only hundreds of dollars - he didn't quite hit the $2,000 mark. However, that definitely didn't stop him, and he went on with the repairments anyway.
John continuously updated his followers with the progress of his hard work! Once he reported that the entry area was finally done, he gushed, "Stairs are finished! Now it's easy and safe to climb in and out." Sims followed the post with a shared image of an aerial view photo of the final result.
On John's GoFundMe page, he shared with his followers what he planned on doing with the updated shelter now that the repairs were finished! "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 wrote.
He added, "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." Finding the underground bunker definitely impacted John's life forever. Who would have ever guessed?
The Legacy Lives On
John decided to turn the bunker into a number of things! One being a fascinating museum for people to come and be a part of and look through exciting artifacts he collected - such as water supply barrels, Geiger counters, HAM radios, and sanitation kits, all from the Cold War era.
It was unbelievable that he could scrounge up so many vintage pieces from that time period that were in good enough condition to put on display. But perhaps more importantly, it was unbelievable that he was able to uncover such a massive secret - awaiting him in his own backyard.