Bruce Beach spent years constructing a city of reinforced steel beneath the forests of rural Canada. But the local government was desperate to stop him; And spent $250,000 trying to do so. What did he know that we didn't?
An Odd Obsession
Our story follows the life of Bruce Beach, a man who fled from America to Canada as a young man. Over the years, he began building a rather unique collection: Old school buses. Motivated by the same fear that had driven him out of his home country, he coveted the reinforced steel the buses were made of.
And once he had completed his collection, he began a new project: Digging. Bruce began to dig an expansive underground pit where he could safely store his collection; Away from potential thieves and the rest of the world. But what was he trying to hide?
A New City In Canada
Over time, Bruce had built something the likes of which no one had ever seen. A strange maze of buses snaking beneath Ontario, Canada. A steel city built entirely underground, one of the most unusual constructions in North America. Though few understood his intent, Bruce continued with his unorthodox passion.
Local government and law enforcement had tried to shut Bruce’s operation down numerous times. But they found themselves facing a bigger hurdle than they expected, one that was entirely underground. Bruce was willing to forego any obstacle to complete his project. But why was he so invested?
And So It Begins
Bruce Beach was born and raised during one of the most high-pressure periods of modern American history. Growing up in Winfield, Kansas, he watched his fellow countrymen go off to fight in Vietnam - all against the backdrop of the cold war. But the rising tensions soon became too much for young Bruce to bear.
He felt he only had one option: To flee the country he called home and find a safe haven across the border. So he, his wife and children gathered their belongings and crossed into Canada. It seemed they were finally beginning the life they had hoped for. That is until Bruce embarked on a mission that no one expected.
Setting Up A Sanctuary
The Beach family had not chosen their new home on a whim. They were returning to the small town Bruce’s wife had grown up in. A quaint rural village called Horning’s Mill, located 2 hours outside of Toronto, Ontario. Bruce scoped out the land there and knew it was the perfect place to start.
He felt confident that it was the safest place in the world. A place where he and his family could begin preparing for all of the hardships that life might throw at them. Once they found land to live on, he began his grand plan - much to the surprise of those around him.
Scrap Metal School Bus
From 1980 and onward, Bruce started what would become a monumentally important collection. He began purchasing old school buses. Each one costing around $300, he had them delivered right to his doorstep in Horning’s Mill. They were kept in an open field near the house.
Over time he had compiled a staggering collection of 42 school buses, costing about $12,000 altogether. Despite the expenses, Bruce knew it would be worth it if it meant keeping his family safe. So he began dismantling every bus, taking them apart before reforming them into a giant metal box.
Safe 14-Feet Under
So why had he chosen all of these buses specifically? The answer was in the reinforced steel they were built out of. These old school buses were essentially blast-proof, making them the perfect basis for a shelter. On the family’s 12.5 acre plot, Bruce began digging a massive pit around the buses.
The pit spanned 14-feet below the ground, deep enough that the ‘bus box’ could be completely covered with dirt. And that’s exactly what he did. Soon all 42 combined school buses had been packed beneath the earth. But how could such a strange plan ensure Bruce and his family’s safety?
Sealing The Deal
Now was time for the last step in the process. After packing the buses beneath 14-feet of dirt, he sealed them in with solid concrete; 2 feet of concrete, in fact. He had decided that the structure would never see the sun again, and for a very important reason. What could it be?
It’s important to understand that the box inside this pit was not meant as a site for curious locals. Instead, Bruce had structured every part of the welded box to form a giant, reinforced metal maze underneath the ground. It acted as an underground shelter of astonishing proportions.
Bruce’s structure was complete. He had now successfully built the largest underground structure in North America, at 10,000 square feet. The structure was dubbed “Ark Two” by its headstrong creator, who felt that it could withstand any kind of flood or disaster it might be threatened with.
Bruce believed that his reinforced-steel labyrinth could house roughly 500 people, give or take. Whether there were 500 people he would allow inside was another question. After all, it was his wish that the underground building be used as a shelter in the first place. But what would they need shelter from?
Bruce had his own careful vetting process when it came to the people granted entry into his ark. Sick people would be prohibited from entry, due to Bruce’s deep fear of contamination being spread through his shelter. After all, safety was paramount.
There were screening sessions that every potential entrant had to take part in, even if they seemed perfectly healthy. He wanted the environment below-ground to be as sterile as possible. So, he needed to impose strict regulations on the list of people given access to his bunker.
Must Be Squeaky Clean
The underground structure was so large that Bruce was able to build 7 entrances inside of it. But no matter what entrance someone used, they'd need to be checked. Beach wanted to ensure that they carried nothing that could pose a possible risk to other inhabitants of Ark Two.
Upon entry, everyone was required to take a shower; Part of a ‘decontamination chamber’ Bruce had installed inside the shelter. This strict process meant that every person inside the shower could be protected, thus preserving the whole purpose of the ark.
But before he could start bringing people on board Ark Two, Bruce had to make sure that his underground shelter was structurally sound. Thankfully Ark Two passed every inspection with flying colors! As it turned out, Bruce had built much of the ark under the supervision of a licensed engineer.
We can't help but wonder why an engineer would agree to supervise such an unorthodox project? But apparently, this man had been fascinated by the structure Bruce was planning; And Bruce's reasons for doing so were even more enthralling. He agreed to help and was keen to see the project flourish.
According to Beach, the engineer who assisted him was the very same man who had overseen the building of Toronto's subway system. No doubt, having such an esteemed engineer only emboldened Bruce on his journey to building the safest shelter in North America.
He had even stocked the ark with generators that could provide power for a minimum of three months. There was also a working plumbing system to provide basic living standards to whoever would inhabit Ark Two. But these weren’t enough - he needed to provide all the basic necessities if he wanted his dreams to come to fruition.
Hierarchy Of Needs
What about food, water, and sleeping quarters? Bruce would have to find solutions to all these things and more. But he had thought even further ahead than anyone could expect. When it came to water, he had set up a well that could provide the whole building with clean drinking water.
He knew that pulling water from the outside would put Ark Two at risk of potential contamination. He had to make the structure as self-sustainable as possible, and not just when it came to freshwater. Thankfully Bruce had considered virtually everything.
Food was going to be equally important. And though the Ark Two menu wasn't as enticing as your everyday restaurant, Bruce figured it'd be good enough for the community that'd live in the shelter. He had installed a giant oven and soup tureen that could provide soup, bread, and other staple foods.
Believe it or not, Bruce had actually maintained a food stockpile over the years. In other words, the ark would always have a fully stocked supply in case of emergency. But of course, he had spent years throwing much of that food away and replacing it. He knew he had to find another solution.
Rules Are Rules
People who might find themselves living in Ark Two would also find a set of strict guidelines they had to abide by. For example, Bruce had set up a policy that men and women were to sleep in separate areas, including couples. His calculations had shown that this maximized space more than keeping families in the same area.
He knew he had to utilize the space in the underground structure as carefully as he could. And if anybody didn’t want to follow these rules? They would simply be barred from entry. But why were there so many rules? What exactly was Bruce planning for?
The Children’s Place
But of course, that wasn’t the end of the list. Bruce also had to acknowledge the younger demographic who might be staying in Ark Two: The children. He knew he had to build a place that could keep them as content as possible while living underground. For Beach, he felt it was his duty to provide the right environment for them.
So Bruce set up an appropriate education system in Ark Two. He built a nursery, a classroom, and play areas full of toys, chess sets, and tricycles to keep them fully occupied. But the list doesn’t stop there. Bruce really had his work cut out for him.
A Little Extra
He had somehow managed to set-up more than just the bare essentials. Bruce had also included extra features to make subterranean life a little easier. He’d gone so far as to source a dentist chair, build a mortuary - and even build a jail cell for anyone who might flout the rules of the shelter.
Bruce knew that discipline had to be maintained on the ark, or he ran the risk of failing in his goal. For this reason, he built two more features: A security system to monitor the ark, and a wheat-grinding mill converted into an exercise bike to keep people healthy. But could anyone really stay underground forever?
Calling All Survivors
Bruce knew that even if the ark could provide everything a small society needed, it was still vital to keep in touch with the outside world. While 500 could live comfortably below the earth, they'd still want to know what was going on above them. So Bruce got to work.
Over time he had developed a complex communication system over the radio. The system was allegedly able to broadcast both AM and FM frequencies. It also had a range that could reach throughout Canada and America - all from beneath the grounds of rural Ontario.
But was Bruce a lone wolf when it came to his unusual ideas? Well, not exactly. Beach acknowledged he belonged to a group of people who called themselves 'preppers.' Preppers are people who believe the apocalypse, or the end of days, is imminent. And they spend much of their lives preparing.
But not all preppers are alike. Many of them had different reasons for their beliefs. Some came to the movement for religious reasons, while others believed that Ancient Mayan calendars have long predicted the end of days. As we know, Bruce became a prepper through fears of his own.
Despite many preppers having different belief systems and timelines, they often band together under a common cause. Many even hold annual Prepper Meetings. During these events, a large group converges to share their respective tips and tricks for a potential apocalypse.
Many of these meetings tend to operate more as practical workshops; Classes that teach individual preppers how to manage the overwhelming work of survival after an apocalypse. Some of the courses have titles such as "Zombie Survival Camp" and "Surviving in the Wilderness."
Despite these meetings and shared sentiments, very few preppers were ever granted entry to the mysterious Ark Two. Bruce was understandably very careful of who he allowed inside. Even the occasional tours he gave of the facility were rare. Members of the press, too, had to work to gain entrance.
According to some journalists, they were required to ‘prove’ themselves to Bruce as being worthy of entry to the structure. This was usually done by providing a service for the reclusive man. Often, it called for chopping firewood for Bruce’s preparation stockpile.
But when the special few were let inside of the ark, they sometimes found that the interior was less than desirable. You see, maintaining such a huge complex for such a long period had taken a financial toll on the Beach family. The challenges Bruce faced seemed endless.
For example, Bruce had to combat floods, fires, and thefts, which all wreaked a fair bit of damage on the structure. As if that wasn’t enough, he once found that the shelter’s grain supply had been entirely infested with rays! But the trouble didn’t only come from within.
The Government Got Involved
Bruce soon discovered that the local Ontario government had caught wind of his project, and they weren’t happy. They believed that the underground structure was an immense safety hazard. One that had to be taken care of as soon as possible, regardless of Bruce’s ambitions.
Despite having an accomplished engineer, Bruce never actually acquired building permits for the 42-bus steel complex (though he certainly tried). Over time he had been taken to court on 30 different occasions! The local government had spent a whopping $250,000 trying to have Ark Two taken apart.
Closed For Negotiations
But it wasn’t just the government sticking their noses in. Soon the local fire department had chosen to take direct action. They ignored the courts completely and arrived at the Beach’s rural property to physically seal the structure themselves. And they did this not once, but twice.
Bruce had muscled through it all, even after being threatened by the fire department for the third time in 2015. In his eyes, all of this meddling from local institutions was just another way for bureaucracy to disrupt his noble intentions: Saving people from a seemingly-imminent apocalypse. But did his family agree?
An Unshakeable Commitment
While not everyone in his family approved, Bruce still had one life-long supporter by his side - his wife, Jean. Through 40-years of construction, she had stood by him with love and support no matter what. She had taken care of inventory and planning for Ark Two.
Bruce was incredibly lucky to have a partner who had dedicated herself whole-heartedly to his cause. They had stormed the political turmoil of the 60s together, so it only made sense that they continued to work as a team. And at 93-years old, she was still devoted.
The Kids Aren’t Alright
Unfortunately for Bruce and Jean, their children didn't exactly share their sentiments. When the story of Ark Two first became public, they had expressed their feelings openly with the press: They were sick of their father's apocalypse preparations and wanted nothing more to do with it.
It may seem harsh, but it's also understandable. Bruce's children had been raised in the shadow of Ark Two. They were made to live in fear of the world ending all throughout their childhood. Once they reached adulthood, it made sense that they wanted to shake off that fear, to separate themselves.
Bruce Marches On
But Bruce had always marched to the beat of his own drum. He wasn’t deterred in the slightest by his children’s lack of support. He felt in his heart that what he was doing was important. As he put it, someday they would understand. But he knew why some people would be doubtful of preppers in general.
After all, his feelings about the prepper community were mixed. In his eyes, many preppers acted more selfishly than they should. According to Bruce, "Some of them are far too focused on their own survival, and not thinking about helping their fellow man." But he knew that Ark Two would one day help hundreds of people.
S.A.F.E As Can Be
Over time Ark Two was given a new title: S.A.F.E, or “Safe America For Everyone.” To Bruce, it was an appropriate name, since the true purpose of the ark was to act as a haven when it would one day be needed. He wanted to welcome all types of people, regardless of differences.
That meant everyone. He wanted it to be known that “all are welcome” aboard Ark Two. If it was his responsibility to manage a post-apocalyptic society? He would not allow it to hold the same philosophies that had separated so much of society as we know it today.
It’s Only Temporary
Bruce had spent so much time and money ensuring that Ark Two could house and protect people. But he could only maintain enough provisions to sustain a full ark community for up to 3 weeks! The idea was that it would be a place to "refuel, rest, and continue on to the next safe place."
The unfortunate truth is that while Bruce’s vision of the future allowed for the protection of many, his understanding of a post-nuclear fallout world was not the most realistic. But regardless, he has an inspirational message that he hopes will come from the apocalypse.
A Whole New World
The image of a nuclear winter is a terrifying one, but Bruce Beach is insistent that we should remain hopeful. To him, the process of destruction means a new beginning, not an end. He believes that the apocalypse and the ensuing rehabilitation of the earth will "[Give] birth to a new type of humanity."
Over the last four decades, Bruce has had many supporters, detractors, and bystanders who were simply confused by his visions. But none of this has ever distracted him from his plans. And whether you agree with him or not, one thing is clear: The work and dedication he has put into Ark Two is admirable in itself.